Jennifer Valente is congratulated by her coach after winning the gold medal during the Women's Omnium points race at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 8, 2021 in Izu, Shizuoka, Japan.
TOKYO — Jennifer Valente sat on the track at the Izu Velodrome, the American flag draped over her shoulders. She was in tears, with “probably was 100 emotions” running through her.
The 26-year-old track cyclist had just won a gold medal in the women’s omnium at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 — the first gold medal for U.S. women in track cycling and the first for USA Cycling since Marty Nothstein claimed Olympic gold in the sprint at the 2000 Sydney Games.
“I think the biggest [realization] is just that none of them had really set in yet,” said Valente of her emotions. “I don't know if they still have set in and understanding what it means to be an Olympic champion. I was just … it's been really emotional, and it's been a long five years, and I'm so happy with this result.”
Against a loaded field — including two-time defending Olympic champion Laura (Trott) Kenny from Great Britain and a slew of world champions, including reigning worlds’ omnium champ Yumi Kajihara from Japan — Valente tallied 124 points in the four-race omnium to take Olympic gold.
Kajihara held on for second place, with 110 points, despite a late crash in the points race. And Kirsten Wild, two-time world champion, moved into bronze medal position in the points race, ending with 108 points.
First introduced at the Olympic Games London 2012, the omnium — meant to determine the best all-around rider from sprinting to endurance — has changed since its debut. Once a six-race event contested over two days, it’s now a four-race event held on the same day.
The scratch race comes first, where the first person across the line after 30 laps wins and gains 40 points toward the omnium total. Next up is the tempo race, sometimes called the “point-a-lap” because the first rider across the line on each lap earns a point; the rider with the most points at the end wins. The third race is the elimination race, where the last rider across the line every two laps is eliminated until there is one left. The omnium ends with the 80-lap points race, with a sprint for 5,3,2,1 points every 10 laps, with double points at the finish.